About Alexander Purdie
Alexander Purdie was born by 1743, perhaps in Scotland, but his birthplace is not stated in surviving records. He was in Williamsburg working in Joseph Royle’s printing office by 1764 and possibly earlier. In June 1766, Purdie went into partnership with John Dixon, another local printer. Purdie and Dixon’s rival, William Rind, was appointed public printer. This post was a lucrative colonial position for publishing Virginia’s laws. Purdie finally achieved that office after both William Rind and his wife, Clementina, who briefly published a Gazette and served as public printer, died. In October 1775, Purdie was also appointed postmaster.
Purdie’s wife Mary died in March 1772, leaving him with four young sons, James, Hugh, Alexander, and William. Before the year was out, Alexander had married Peachy Davenport, a local spinster of good family who owned property of her own, and was six years older than he. Purdie died on April 16, 1779, after “a tedious and painful illness.” In his will he left his wife five slaves. All of the rest of the personal property was to be sold, and the residue divided among his heirs. One of his sons, James, predeceased him. Peachy’s sister Martha and her husband Augustine Davis took over the operation of Purdie’s printing office while Purdie’s surviving sons were underage.